The easy first 9 cm of labor. The 9 hour fight for the last cm. The three hours on pitocin with no pain medication. The hot tears of joy on my face from Kevin as he provides strength for me when I thought I had none left. The exhilaration and exhaustion of pushing her out into the world, watching her emerge from me. The frustration of a home birth relocated to the hospital with a rough Dr. who handled me like I was numb when I was not. The episiotomy that was pleaded against, but inflicted anyway. The rush of warming love for this little being as I nurse her. The feeling of accomplishment and pride at doing it without asking for the drugs I wanted so badly toward the end. The first shower in the hospital. The ridiculous self-care routine every time I went to the bathroom: get up (always the hardest part), warm water rinse, pat dry, spray pain reliever, tucks pads, fresh maxi pad, ice pack, gauze undies, waddle back, get back in bed, repeat again in an hour. The chaos and joy of a full house to celebrate her first day home from the hospital. The helplessness and sleep-deprivation of the first night home alone. My mother rocking me as I cry the next morning as we play out the circle of life. Breastfeeding in the early weeks: first being so proud that it was going well, then later crying through the pain. Kevin and I dumbfounded as we look down at Claire, discussing if we really believe we are now parents. The times on our first outings at 5-10ish days old when strangers stop me at Target and exclaim, "Isn't it just wonderful!" and I lie and say yes because it's the expected answer, when really I sometimes feel like this little stranger that I can't figure out is emptying me with her need, draining me and leaving pain and fatigue in her wake. And still there is joy somehow. And then the pain starts to dull, and the fatigue becomes customary, and the joy breeds peace. The love we feel from our friends who bring us food for the first couple of weeks. The pride we feel when people tell us she is beautiful. The hours of rocking at night, pleading with her to go to sleep. The times we think we catch her almost smiling. The morning when we spend forever laughing while she does smile up at us in earnest. The comforting rhythm we have fallen into now. The happy dance I did when I got 6 hours of sleep. The rejoicing I did when she started sleeping for 10 hours straight. The confidence of feeling like Claire is known to me now--no longer a stranger. The way we communicate with ease, like a dance of back and forth, knowing what she needs when she asks. And today, right now, feeling like being a mother is the most wonderful thing in the world, the thing I am best at.
Sometimes I imagine Claire's life is laid out before me like a book. The book is beautifully crafted, written in an ornate, careful, steady hand. And it reads like one of those great stories that draw you in, transfix you with their complex beauty, their poetry. But I have to be careful, because sometimes I want to devour those stories too quickly, skipping past the poetry in my quest for the plot, always seeking the next happening. I want to experience Claire's life page by page. I want to revel in each moment, appreciate it for what it is. I want to remember the small and simple snapshots.